External Investigation NOW for Estela- ongoing sexual assault in Waco's Harwell Detention

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Texas Rangers and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI):

We residents of McLennan County, community faith leaders, business owners, the Waco Immigrants Alliance, and supporters across the nation are writing to urge you to immediately launch an external investigation into the sexual assault of an immigrant detainee in the custody of McLennan County Sheriff's Department, Estela Briceno Fajardo, which took place at the adjoining Jack Harwell Detention Center.

Due to the negligence of a corrupt attorney, Estela has been languishing in the Jack Harwell Detention Center and McLennan County Jail for two years without a day in court. This nightmare began when Estela, a trusting person who always wanted to support local entrepreneurs, unknowingly purchased stolen goods from who she believed was a legitimate jewelry dealer. However, Ms. Fajardo has stood her ground and resisted the pressure to accept a plea deal, even though it has meant prolonged separation from her newborn baby son. Estela's infant was exclusively breastfed at the time of her arrest and he faced severe trauma and separation anxiety. He is now three years old and has not touched his mom in three years; they've only visited through a computer screen.

The Harwell detention center has an extensive rap sheet that include: poor medical care and unfit living conditions reported by visiting attorneys, improper sexual conduct and possession of prohibited substances by guards, medical negligence resulting in suicide and falsification of related records, sexual assault by officers, guards orchestrating inmate fights, guards engaging in sex acts with inmatesand even more sexual assault. Time and again, the Jack Harwell Detention Center owned by McLennan County and run by LaSalle Corrections has proven to be nothing more than a corrupt facility that exposes vulnerable people to abuse and exploitation, and where LaSalle staff operate with little to no oversight or consistent accountability. 

The investigation into Estela’s assault performed by the McLennan County Sheriff's Department and was severely lacking. The case was closed and labeled "unsubstantiated." This is unacceptable.This is an egregious example of clear failure of the criminal justice system as well as the US immigration system. After two years of prolonged incarceration in the county jail for a crime she has not been convicted of (and for which she adamantly refutes), Estela realized that she had allies on the outside, and bravely came forward with her story. Ms. Fajardo reports that she was sexually assaulted multiple times, and continuously harassed, by a LaSalle Corrections guard in the Harwell Detention Center. Now she is being targeted by jail staff for speaking out about her ongoing abuse and assault.

Ms. Fajardo is a familiar, trusted name in Waco. She has resided here with her four children (US citizens age 3, 14, 16, and 21) since the age of 16. (Over 30 years!) She is a self-made business woman who has made extensive contributions to the business sector, nonprofit organizations, the 2 large church congregations that she is a member of, and several civic groups that she eagerly participates in. However, because of her immigration status that was continuously sabotaged and leveraged by an abusive ex husband, ICE placed a hold on her upon arrest.

McLennan County has voluntarily chosen to honor this ICE detainer which has left Ms. Fajardo (and others like her) vulnerable to the exploitation and abuse of  corrections officer who is supposed to keep order and peace. Instead, she has been harassed and tormented, now prescribed to anti-depressants and anti-psychotics while in the Sheriff's custody. Estela was an energetic, active member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and many other key organizations in Waco. Her teenagers were forced to leave their schools, friends, and life here to relocate to a city and parent they hardly know. Their grades and their mental health have suffered. This has broken down Estela's spirit, has ripped apart her family, and now, it is threatening her life.

Ms. Fajardo is now facing incredible covert acts of hostility inside the McLennan County Jail, under conditions that have re-traumatized her again and again. She was recently given the wrong medications "accidentally" after she protested that they were not her medications to the jail staff. This rendered her violently ill, causing prolonged vomiting, diarrhea, and welps the size of oranges all over her body which her family has seen with their own eyes. She has been sick for weeks after. And the McLennan County jail had the audacity to issue her a bill for the medical costs to see a doctor to save her life, after she was poisoned.

After learning of the exploitative, dishonest practices of her previous attorney, Estela's family reached out to the Waco Immigrants Alliance. They have secured new legal representation and although it does look bright on the criminal justice side, her immigration status has repeatedly been sabotaged and exploited by her abusive ex-husband. Due to his vindictive manipulation that included control of her immigration papers, she is now facing rapid deportation when her criminal case is closed. However, with Prosecutorial Discretion issued by ICE, Estela will be able to pursue a U-Visa and begin her long, hard journey toward healing. She cannot do so while she remains incarcerated without trial, in the suffocating environment where she was abused, and on the property where her abuser is still employed.

THEREFORE- Today we the People insist the F.B.I. and Texas Rangers quickly launch an investigation into Estela's case. We demand that ICE grant Prosecutorial Discretion to Estela Briceno Fajardo. We insist that our elected officials (Bill Flores, Beto O'Roarke, Joaquín Castro, and John Cornyn (among others) submit an Inquiry into this matter and use their influence to advocate for Estela's vindication and release. And we insist that the McLennan County cease the destructive practice of hiring private companies to run our local facilities. Ms. Fajardo is a strong and brave woman; however, she is indeed a victim in every definition of the word, and she should not be punished for speaking out about her assault, for refusing to plead out to a crime she did not commit, and for escaping extreme trauma in Mexico and contributing to the strong fabric of the Waco community.


The Concerned Citizens and Leaders of McLennan County; Waco, Texas; and supporters across the USA

#FreeEstella #BringEstelaHome #WacoIsWatching


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